What to do when your dog dies

Losing your dog is never easy but being prepared can help you to cope and get through the process.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 25 October 2022  | 5 mins read

What to do when your dog dies

It’s never easy saying goodbye to your loyal companion for the last time. And if your dog’s getting closer to its final days you might be worried about what happens next.

However, there are steps you can take to help you prepare for what’s coming.

Thinking about what you’d like to happen at the end of your dog’s life can help you to plan and give them the send-off they deserve.

Key points

  • It’s important to think about what’s best for your dog when you’re making decisions about their end of life
  • Vets may recommend euthanasia to prevent unnecessary suffering and it may be possible to do this at your home
  • Some pet insurance policies cover death from injury or illness, but always remember to cancel your cover once your dog dies
  • Take time to say goodbye and come to terms with what’s happened, there’s support out there if you need it

How to prepare for your dog’s death

  1. Do your research

    Find out what changes you can expect as your dog gets older or their illness progresses

  2. Discuss options with your vet

    Your vet will be able to assess if your dog is suffering and whether it’s time to end treatment and discuss end of life options

  3. Have a plan

    You’ll need to make some decisions about how and where you’d like them to spend their last moments. Also, decide who’ll be there to say goodbye

  4. Spend quality time with your dog

    Enjoy time together, spoil your pup and gather their favourite toys. Do what they love to do, even if it’s just curling up on the sofa with you

  5. Take time to say goodbye

    Part of the grieving process is giving your dog permission to go. Take time to quietly and calmly say goodbye, thanking them for your time together

What are the options for your dog’s end of life?

If your dog’s very unwell or reaching the end of its life, your vet will discuss options with you about what happens next.

When making the decision it’s important to think about what’s best for your dog.

Dying naturally at home

One option is for your dog to pass away without medical intervention at home, however, unless this happens unexpectedly, your vet may not recommend this.

Although dying at home can mean your dog’s in familiar surroundings, it may also mean added discomfort if they’re not given the necessary pain relief or palliative care they need.

Euthanasia at home

Another option to enable your dog to pass away at home is for a vet to come to your house to administer a euthanasia injection.

Your local veterinary surgery might not offer this service so you may need to use a private or specialist mobile vet, but it’s worth finding out if this is an option for you.

Putting your dog to sleep at home is likely to cost more than in the vet's surgery.

The cost for dog euthanasia at home can cost you around £400 [1] but it depends on the size of your dog, the service you use, and if it’s on the weekend or out of hours.

Put to sleep at the surgery

Depending on whether your dog is suffering, your vet might either advise euthanasia happens straightaway or you may be able to make an appointment on another day.

The reception team will try to arrange this for a quiet time when you won’t be interrupted or rushed.

You’ll normally need to sign a consent form and the surgery will usually discuss options for cremation and payment before your appointment.

The cost for your dog to be put to sleep at the vets can cost from around £80 to £200 [2], but prices will vary depending on the practice.

What to do if your dog dies naturally at home

You may decide for your dog to die at home or their death may be sudden and the decision is taken out of your hands.

If you’ve chosen for your dog to die in familiar surroundings, you’ll have time to prepare.

Get advice from your vet on any pain relief or medication that might be needed and create an environment that’s calm and relaxing.

Make your dog as comfortable as possible and stay close by so they know you’re there.

Once your dog passes away, you should contact your local vet, pet crematorium or pet cemetery as soon as possible.

If you choose for your dog to be put to sleep

You and your family know your dog better than anyone else and you’ll notice signs that they’re not experiencing the quality of life they deserve.

A rapid decline in health and persistent symptoms like loss of appetite, breathing difficulties, or signs of pain or distress, are all indications that you should consider end of life options.

Your vet will be able to help you decide and will make some recommendations.

If the chance of recovery is slim or not possible, your vet may advise that the kindest option is to put your dog to sleep, also known as euthanising.

What happens to my dog during euthanasia?

Unless it’s needed urgently or your dog’s suffering unnecessarily, your vet might agree this can be done in a few days and arrange a quiet time when you and your dog can come in.

Some vets may also be able to do a home visit for euthanasia.

If your dog’s been taken in for surgery, the vet might discover the condition is inoperable and suggest that euthanasia takes place then.

If they’re already under anaesthetic, it can be kinder to do this without waking them.

The euthanasia process is quick and painless - your dog will be injected with an overdose of anaesthetic and will pass away peacefully in a couple of minutes.

Should I stay with my dog during euthanasia?

This is a very personal choice, so whether you stay will be entirely up to you.

The veterinary staff will understand completely if you choose not to be there and will make sure your dog’s last moments are calm, comfortable and dignified.

If you decide to remain with your dog while they’re put to sleep, it’s best to try and keep as calm as possible to help your dog stay relaxed.

Keeping your dog company can give them extra reassurance, which can comfort you both.

Once your dog has passed away, you’ll usually be given the opportunity to be alone with them for a few minutes.

What if my dog dies while I’m away or they’re in boarding kennels?

If you’re planning to leave your dog with a boarding kennel or dog minder, it’s a good idea to check their processes and terms and conditions first.

Before leaving your dog, agree on what you’d like to happen if there was an emergency or if your pup was to become seriously ill while you’re away.

If your dog dies in their care, your kennel or dog minder should try to contact you as soon as possible to let you know and ask what you’d like to happen next.

If you’re not nearby, it’s likely they’ll contact their local appointed veterinary practice. The dog will either be collected by them.

Once you return, you can then decide what next steps you’d like to take.

What are the options after my dog dies?

Once your dog passes away, you can speak to your vet about any keepsakes you’d like to take with you, like their collar, a clipping of fur, or a paw print.

The options you may be given afterwards include:

Dog burial at home

You may be allowed to take your dog home to be buried in your private garden or on land you own, but there are practicalities to be considered.

For example, you’ll need to check for underground pipes or cables, the area can’t be at risk of flooding, plus it requires digging a four-foot deep hole.

Burial in a pet cemetery

You might be able to have your dog buried in a pet cemetery in a designated plot. Burials can cost several hundred pounds depending on whether you want a service or memorial.

Registered pet cemeteries aren’t widely available in the UK, but you can find out where your nearest one is at appcc.org.uk.

Communal cremation

The cheapest option is communal cremation where your dog is cremated with other dogs, so their ashes will be mixed. The cost will depend on your dog’s size but can range from between £50 to £150 [3].

Individual cremation

This option allows your dog to be cremated separately and for you to receive their individual ashes. The price will depend on the size of your dog, but it typically starts from around £100.

Does pet Insurance cover end of life?

This varies widely between insurance companies, so it will depend on your policy and the type of cover you take out.

Your policy may include cover for your dog’s death from illness or injury.

This may cover what you paid for your dog up to a limit, if it dies or is put to sleep because of an illness or injury. But it usually only applies up until your dog reaches a certain age.

Some pet insurance policies will cover the cost of cremation or euthanasia, or you can buy this as a policy add-on, but there’s often a cover limit of around £100 to £300.

Once your dog passes away, make sure you contact your insurer to cancel your policy.

Helpful tips on coping with loss

  • Give yourself time to grieve - It’s important to give yourself time to process what’s happened and be patient, there is no timetable for grieving
  • Commemorate their life - Do something to remember them and give thanks for your dog, this could be planting a tree in their memory or making a special photo album
  • Do what’s right for you - You may decide you want to hold a small service or funeral, follow your instincts and do whatever you feel will help you get through this time
  • Find support - It can help to share your feelings with someone else. You can also try using a pet bereavement support service, like the one from the Blue Cross charity
  • Be open with your children - Use simple language to explain what’s happened and what your children might be feeling. Help them to remember happy times with your dog
  • Wait before getting a new dog - Don’t rush into this, it’s better to wait until the whole family is ready and in the right mindset to welcome another furry companion

Useful guides and tools

[1] Example price of home euthanasia for dogs according to Peacefulpetgoodbyes.uk

[2] Example price of surgery euthanasia for dogs according to Oodlelife.com

[3] Example price of communcal cremation of a dog according to manypets.com